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Gastric Ulcers in Horses

The horse in its natural environment should spend up to 16 hours per day feeding in a herd, with the occasional need to move at high speed to evade predators. In this state the horse’s naturally acidic stomach contents are buffered by saliva produced in response to regular eating.

What causes gastric ulcers?

There are several factors that contribute to ulcers. A lack of fibre is one of the major caHappy Horsesuses as the horse’s natural trickle grazing would normally provide protection against ulcers – the presence of fibrous material in the stomach acts as a physical barrier literally stopping the acid coming into contact with the stomach lining. Constant chewing produces saliva that helps to neutralise acid produced in the stomach. Any horse or pony that has restricted access to forage can be vulnerable to ulcers, which is why it is a problem that can affect racehorses as well as good doers.

Other factors that contribute to ulcers include exercise and stress

Could my horse have ulcers?

Not all horses and ponies show classic symptoms of ulcers, but the following are indicators that suggest you may want to ask your vet to check for ulcers:

  • grumpy behaviour particularly when girthing up· stereotypic behaviour such as cribbing or wind-sucking· poor condition· weight loss· repeatedly suffers from ‘gassy’ colic after eating· starts to eat but keeps stopping· reluctance to eat

Managing a horse prone to ulcers and stomach upsets

There are various antacid medications that your vet may prescribe and alongside these it is important to feed and manage your horse or pony in a way that reduces the risk of ulcers recurring. The following tips should be implemented:

  • Feed plenty of forage. This promotes chewing and naturally regulates the level of acidity in the stomach.
  • Continuous access to forage when stabled
  • Use low calorie forages for good doers to provide chew time without the weight gain.
  • Reduce the use of cereals or – even better – remove them completely from the ration. Cereals create more acidic conditions in the gut.
  • Use higher energy forages to supply energy without the need to use cereals.
  • Include alfalfa in the ration. Independent research at Texas A&M University has shown alfalfa is a natural buffer to acidity due to its protein and calcium content.
  • Exercise intensity may need to be reduced to allow recovery from ulcers.
  • Turn out as much as possible to supply fibre, relaxation and avoid any unnecessary stressful situations.

Feeding Cats

Cat eating guide

Like all animals, your cat needs a diet that’s properly balanced and contains all the required nutrients in correct quantities. These nutrients are water, protein, fats and oils, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. Any manufactured pet food should provide your cat with this basic nutritional balance. The choice of serving canned or dry, or a mixture of the two, is really a matter of personal preference between you and your cat.

Recent developments in pet nutrition mean there is now a wide range of commercially produced cat foods designed to match more accurately your cat’s specific needs. If your cat spends most of his time indoors, for example, he may benefit from a special indoor formula, while less-active cats require less fat, so feeding a ‘light’ formula could help to avoid weight gain.

You can feed your cat on wet or dry food, or a combination of both. Some cats prefer to be fed wet food in the morning, for example, but have dry food left out during the day to snack on. Unlike many dogs, cats prefer to crunch on their dry food and generally find it less attractive when soaked, so keep it dry.

With dry food, you can expect your cat to chew it more actively and take longer to eat; to drink more water; and to return regularly to the food rather than eating it all at once. Dry food is convenient in that it will stay fresh all day, so it can be left out for your cat to eat whenever it wants. Dry food must, however, be stored in a dry, clean environment.

With wet foods cats tend to eat more in one sitting rather than going back and forth, and will drink less. Serve the food at room temperature to ensure your cat can taste and smell it properly. Warming up an opened can may take up to two hours from being taken out of the fridge, microwaving canned foods for a short time is always an option. Don’t keep wet food opened for longer than 24 hours as it will go off and cause upset tummies.

Make sure fresh drinking water is always available for your cat, but don’t give cow’s milk. Cow’s milk isn’t suitable for cats, as most cats lose the ability to digest lactose shortly after weaning. Pastuerised yoghurt doesn’t contain lactose, however, so this can be an alternative for some cats.

Remember also that cats are confirmed meat eaters and cats will go blind, suffer other debilitating conditions and ultimately die if fed on a vegetarian diet. Meat is the only major source of arachidonic acid, and cats lacking the ability to synthesize niacin from protein. Cats need meat to survive!

It’s always a good idea to feed on a surface that is easily cleaned, like a tiled floor or a mat. Place feeding bowls away from the litter tray and, if you have two cats, keep the bowls a reasonable distance apart to avoid confrontations or bullying. Ensure you provide clean, fresh water in a large metal or ceramic bowl. This helps to keep the kidneys healthy and reduce the risk of Urinary infections.

Older cats may benefit from an adjustment to their diet, changing to foods that are more easily diet, changing to foods that are more easily digested.

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Tips To Avoid Laminitis

1. Ensure your horse is a healthy weight as obese horses are at greater risk of developing the disease.
2. Limit the soluble sugars your horse consumes: molasses, cereals and lush grass can all be high in either sugar or starch.
3. Restrict grazing by either strip grazing your pasture or placing a grazing muzzle on your horse.
4. Avoid turnout on days when it is very cold but very bright and sunny as the fructan concentration will be at its highest. Wait until the temperature has risen and any frost on the grass has melted.
5. Ensure you feed a high fibre, low sugar, low starch diet.
6. Avoid high energy forages such as haylage. It may be an idea to soak your hay also, as this will remove any soluble sugars that remain in the forage from the harvesting process.

Some Chicken Facts

A common misconception; hens do not need a cockeral to lay an egg, only to fertilise one.

  • A chicken is called a pullet until it is a year old; when they reach a year old they become hens.
  • Pullets start laying eggs at about six months old.
  • Chickens live approximately eight to ten years depending on their enviroment.
  • There are more chickens in the world then people.
  • Cockerels don’t just crow at dawn, they crow all day long.
  • Chickens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs and those with white ear lobes lay white eggs.
  • A chicken can lay more than 600 eggs in her first two years.
  • Eggshells have a natural outer coating that keeps bacteria out.
  • Straw is the best kind of litter for the coop.
  • You can encourage hens to lay eggs in the nest box by placing a golf ball or plastic egg in the nest.
  • Chickens need 14-16 hours of light each day in order to lay.

Poisons and Toxins for Chickens

Most  poultry  will  avoid  eating  poisonous  plants  due  to  their  bitter  taste  but  chickens are  at  risk  from  laburnum  seeds,  potato  sprouts,  black  nightshade,  henbane,  most irises,  privet,  rhubarb  leaves,  rhododendron, oleander,  yew,  castor  bean,  sweet  pea, rapeseed, corn  cockle,  clematis,  common  St. John’s Wort, meadow  buttercup, vetch, ragwort and  some fungi.

Blue-green algae  is  quickly fatal,  so  water containers should be  kept  clean,  especially  in  hot  weather  and  access  to  stagnant  water  should  be prevented.

Phenol-based  disinfectants  are  toxic,  as  is  zinc  from  rusty  galvanised drinkers.

Access  to lead (old paint) should be prevented.

Pet Food Ingredients

A Comprehensive list of ingredients that are used in the pet food industry.

Animal Fat

Animal fats are a mixture of fats rendered from different animals. The source of these are diverse and include restaurant grease and factory by-products. The mixture of different animals makes it hard to avoid particular ingredients if your pet has an allergy or intolerance.

First you can never be sure which animal fats are present and secondly they can vary batch to batch so that even if your pet can tolerate it, this could be different in a later batch of pet food.

Due to the nature of animal fat, they tend to be preserved with artificial preservatives such as BHT, BHA or Ethoxyquin to prevent rancidity as it is hard to preverse them naturally.


Ash content is given as a percentage. It isn’t an ingredient that is added but the total mineral content of the product after incineration.


Although a good source of protein, beef is known to cause intolerances in some pets. It is also lower down the digestibility scale from chicken, turkey and lamb.

Brewers Yeast

A a by-product from the brewing industry. It contains high levels of vitamin B

By Products of Vegetable Origin

This term allows the use of anything that is not classed as a cereal. It is generally waste material from the Human food preparation industry. By the time it is processed at high temperature, it contains no nutritional value except as another fibre source. It is inexpensive to use and is classed as another bulking agent.


A good source of beta-carotene, vitamins and minerals.


A term used to cover many different grains used in pet foods. When you see this as an ingredient, it means that you cannot be certain what is actually in your pet food because they are not using a “named” ingredient. This allows manufacturers to use the cheapest grain available at the time of manufacture and this can change batch to batch.

Chicken (fresh)

A good protein source with a balanced amino acid acid mix.
“Fresh” is the term used when the % given is for the meat quantity before processing when it is weighed in its wet form. This can be misleading as you are perceiving the % of wet quantity, yet 70% of the water is lost during processing leaving you with a much smaller meat content in the final product.

Chicken (meal and dried)

Chicken meat and meal is an good protein source with a balanced amino acid mix. This is the same as fresh chicken but with the water removed which means that it gives a better guide to the actual quantity in the final product. Can be described as “The dried, clean rendered flesh of the animal with the water and fat removed”.

Chicken Fat

A high quality fat source that is highly palatable.


Frequently used as a pet food ingredient, however it can be difficult for pets to digest. Used as a carbohydrate source, it is cheap and could be described as a filler.

Derivatives of vegetable origin

A generic term used to describe by-products of vegetable origin. This is yet another term that is commonly used in pet foods that covers many different ingredients so that pet food manufacturers can use the cheapest available.

Official definition:
Derivatives resulting from the treatment of vegetable products in particular cereals, vegetables, legumes and oil seeds.

EC permitted additives

Covers a large range of different chemicals, allowing a pet food manufacturer to use any of them without having to individually name any of them. This includes artificial colours and flavourings which are known to cause hyperactivity. More worryingly, pet foods using this term can contain preservatives such as BHA, BHT and Ethyoxquin.


Egg is the most digestible source of protein as well as providing vitamins and minerals.


An excellent quality protein source that is also highly palatable. It also contains good levels of omega 6 and omega 3 which consist of polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA. DHA is known to help brain function.

Fish oil

Contains good levels of omega 3 which consist of polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA. DHA is known to help brain function.


A good protein source. It is rich in calcium and a good source of zinc. Lamb meal is used in many hypo-allergenic pet foods.

Definition of meal:
Prepared by the heating, drying and grinding whole or parts of warm blooded land animals from which the fat has been partially extracted or physically removed. The product has to be free from hooves, horn, bristle, hair and feathers as well as digestive tract content.

Meat and animal derivatives

A generic term that covers all animals and parts such as heads, feet, guts, lungs, hair, feathers and wool! This term can be used to hide undesirable ingredients and allows the manufacturer to change the meat source from batch to batch to whatever is the cheapest available at the time of manufacture. Meat and animal derivatives are used in many successful pet foods because most consumers don’t know any better.

Official definition of meat and animal derivatives:
All the fleshy parts of slaughtered warm-blooded land animals fresh or preserved by appropriate treatment, and all products and derivatives of the processing of the carcase or parts of the carcase of such animals.


A versatile ingredient used as a fibre source, also providing a good source of energy.


A high quality carbohydrate. It is often used as an alternative to rice and therefore a good ingredient for pets with rice intolerances.

Poultry by products

Clean parts of slaughtered poultry, such as heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, feet, abdomen, intestines and heads.

Propylene Glycol

A preservative that is used in pet foods. It is best avoided as it known to cause problems such as hair loss, dull coat, diarrhoea etc.


The most digestible of all grains and is known to be low in allergy risk and so is found in many “hypo-allergenic” pet foods. Rice is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and B Vitamins.

Rosemary/Rosemary Extract

Used in pet foods as a preservative as it is a natural antioxidant.


A great source of iodine and minerals


Widely used in pet foods as a protein source. However, Soy is commonly known as a cause of food allergies in pets.

Sugar Beet Pulp (beet pulp)

Beet pulp is a good source of insoluble and soluble fibres.

Tocopherols (vitamin E)

A naturally occuring antioxidant which is used to preserve pet foods. Tocopherols are often made from edible vegetables oils. The use of Tocopherols in a pet food is a good indication of a better pet food.

Official definition:
All products of vegetable origin in which the proteins have been concentrated by an adequate process to contain at least 50% crude protein, as related to the dry matter, and which may be restructured or textured.

Wheat/Wheat Gluten

A grain used as a carbohydrate source in pet foods, however it is associated with causing allergies in many pets.

Feeding Your Rabbit

Rabbits require high levels of fibre in there diet for efficient gut movement and to encourage chewing to keep their continually growing teeth trim. Feeding good quality hay alongside a prepared pet food is always advised.

Listed below are a few top tips on feeding your rabbit

Ensure your rabbit has plenty of hay– it is the best form of fibre for rabbits and is a great substitute for the grass they would eat in the wild.

Provide them with access to dried or fresh grass.

Feed leafy vegetables– good for their teeth!

Include a few root vegetables (but go easy on the carrots which actually aren’t that good for rabbits!)

Always provide access to fresh water – they like it best from a metal tipped feeding bottle, check the bottle regularly to make sure it’s working properly and clean it often.

Buy specialist rabbit food – ask your vet or pet shop for advice.

As a treat feed carrot tops – but only a few because they’re loaded with calcium and your rabbit doesn’t need too much of that.

DON’T give them sticky or sugary treats – a real no-no for their teeth.

Rabbits are quite sensitive so if you change their food do so gradually.

Rabbits can get fat quickly if they’re not eating the right food or taking enough exercise.

Rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas have teeth which grow continually, if fed unsuitable foods they fail to wear the teeth sufficiently and this leads  painful dental conditions such as malocclusions (misalignment of the teeth).

Feeding Your Horse

Horses are trickle feeding herbivores that have evolved  to  consume  a  diet  rich  in  structural carbohydrates  (fibre),  but  low  in  soluble polysaccharides (starch).

Fibre sources such as hay, haylage and grass are vital for a healthy digestive system and should always form the majority of the diet.

Fibre also provides the horse with excellent levels of slow release energy and a good source of calories and heat as it is fermented in the body.

Starch is a carbohydrate found in cereal grains such as barley, maize and oats and provides a good source of fast release energy.

While starch is not ‘bad’ as such for the horse in small quantities, it can cause problems if the horse eats too much in one meal.

It is well documented that horses are ineffective at utilising starch if fed in excess and recent studies have concluded that horses should be fed a low starch diet, as higher amounts can lead to the development of gastric ulcers, insulin
resistance, laminitis and muscle myopathies (such as tying up).

It is essential that horses are fed according to their individual needs.

Horses at maintenance should be fed high fibre, low calorie feeds to avoid excess energy being consumed.

However, horses that are in work and require more energy, do not necessarily need to be fed concentrated meals, high in starch, to get the extra calories needed.

Highly digestible fibre, combined with oil, can provide a good level of calories in a form that is more suited to the digestive physiology of the horse


Horse/Pony Details  Feed Requirements
Approx Height (hh)      Approx Weight (kg)       Hard Feed per day (kg)       Min forage per day (kg)
10-11.3                                  150-200                             0.5-1.0                                        2.5-3.0
12-12.3                                  200-250                             1.0-1.5                                        3.0-3.5
13-13.3                                  300-350                             1.5-2.0                                        4.5-5.5
14-14.3                                  400-450                             2.0-2.5                                        6.0-6.5
15-15.3                                  500-550                             2.5-3.0                                        7.5-8.0
16-16.3                                  550-600                             3.0-4.0                                        8.0-9.0
17+                                        600+                                  3.5-5.0                                        9.0+

Feeding Chickens

Your chickens will need properly formulated chicken feed that is the correct type for their age, for growth, sustenance and to produce eggs if they are hens of egg laying age.

Hens can also suppliment their diet with what they can forage. Bugs, insects and worms are all valuable sources of protein, not forgetting a good selection of greens providing vitamins and minerals.

Chickens require protein to produce feathers  and eggs as well as to grow. The amount of protein in their diet is important and you will see on the ingredients on the back of bags of feeds the percentage of protein that they contain. It is higher in ‘Growers Pellets’ for example to enable chickens to grow and produce feathers.  You will find that chickens stop laying eggs when they moult (lose their feathers and regrow new) as they are diverting protein from egg production to feather production.

Layers pellets for example are around 16% protein. Wheat is about 10% protein and lacks essential vitamins that are required by chickens.

Formulated feeds come as pellets or mash and should be fed ad-lib so hens can take what they want as they need it. This type of feed must be kept dry or it will soon spoil.

Mixed corn is usually 60% wheat and 40% maize. It is useful as a scratch feed, it keeps hens active, scratching around looking for it but should only be considered a treat.

Maize (yellow in colour) is very fattening but can be useful during very cold weather to help your hens keep warm and after they have finished moulting (they need lots of protein during the moult) since they are not laying eggs and need a little extra fat to burn in order to keep warm.

If you feed too much corn, your hens will get fat and fat hens don’t lay eggs!

Feeding scraps should be limited to at most 25% of a hens diet so as not to tip the balance too far one way or another.

Ample green stuff should be provided for your hens. Grass cuttings, weeds and offcuts from cabbages, cauliflowers and other greens can be provided at minimal cost.

Changing Your Pets Diet


When you change your pets food remember this needs to be a gradual process and should be done over a period of 7 to 10 days to minimise the chances of upset stomachs leading to diarrhoea,vomiting, constipation etc.

•For the first three days mix 25% of the new diet with 75% of the old diet.  If all ok then
•For the next three days mix 50% of the new diet with 50% of the old diet.
•On day 7 increase the new diet to 75% with 25% of the old diet for a further three days.
•By the 10th day as long as your pet is happy with the new diet they can be fed 100% on the new food.

Once your pet has been eating the new diet for over a month they should be showing signs of a healthy shining coat, brighter eyes, good bodily condition and an increase in vitality.